Title: Final Fantasy VI (Final Fantasy III in the US)
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square/Nintendo
Date Published: 1994
Platforms: Super Nintendo Entertainment System

The last of the 2D, cartridge-based Final Fantasy games. The game managed to tell an interesting story and provide a large and detailed world to explore, without the assistance of FMV sequences and multiple CDs of storage. Also the first game in the series to appreciably break away from the stock medieval fantasy template. FF6's world blended magic with science fiction. By most people's reckoning, this is one of the two best RPGs released on the SNES (along with the following year's Chrono Trigger). The game was translated into English and gained a large following in the US, although it was never released in its original form in Europe. It was later re-released for the Sony PlayStation with prerendered FMV sequences replacing some of the in-engine cutscenes.


FF6 is simultaneously a good and a bad game. The many reasons it is a good game are so obvious they need no mention to those who have played; they are quite adequately covered in the other writeups. Nonetheless, someone should point out the warts as well. Here we go!

  • The random encounters make no sense. The mines of Narshe have packs of wild Repo men that attack on sight???
  • The random encounters come way too quickly (though not as bad as Final Fantasy 9). Part of this is just the small sense of scale due to the large character icons. It seems like you fight monsters every 10 meters.
  • Also, the random encounters are far too weak. With cure being as cheap as it is, if you survive the battle, you will be at full health for the next one... so what use are groups of monsters that provide little exp and no threat? They slow down the game, boring.
  • Figaro castle. Okay, now that's just weird.
  • So, the town of Zozo has low-life scum, right? And the world hasn't seen magic for thousands of years, so no one actually believes it exists anymore, right? Now, how is it that so many people in Zozo have magic?
  • Osmose is way too powerful. It restores the caster's magic by hundreds of MP (a lot). It costs 1 MP. One hit with that every battle and you're looking at being able to last forever without resting.
  • The characters get way too escalated. In the later stages of the game, your characters can deal many times their own Hit Points in damage. This actually makes more real-life sense than the steady battles of attrition that Final Fantasy usually has... but the battle system does not allow strategizing on the defense, except for slow in-between battle equipment shuffling.
  • Swordtech 1, the blitzes, and especially the tools are all better than fight. Why EVER fight with the characters that have these attacks? Sure, you can choose who to hit, but usually this is usually irrelevant compared to the boost in power. In the case of the tools, the improvement is so strong it's kind of obscene.
  • The size of an HP is very different between characters and monsters. If a powerful character has 1000 HP, then a medium-low level monster can have something like 3000. And that's the HUMANOID monsters. This also has the effect that if one of your characters is confused, the damage he does to your party is proportionally much greater than the damage he can do to your enemies, even after a reduction for attacking allies.
  • Every level, if you are using an Esper at the time, you get a bonus based on which Esper you are using. Optimising your party generally involves flipping around the desired espers just before level-up. There is no restriction on how many people can get the bonus from each esper (for example, the +2 vigor esper generally gets passed around among the fighting characters, the +2 magic power espers among the magicians). Now, this provides a way for the player to have some input as to the development of the characters, which is great. However, it's extremely annoying to figure out who is about to level and then move the esper onto that character (for some weird reason you need to explicitly unequip it from the other character first. Look, I want this character to use it, hand it over, OK?). Either a convenient UI for this kind of activity, or making the bonus selection independent of esper allocation would be a significant improvement.
  • Levels are not a big deal and they don't get further apart very quickly. This is not in itself a problem, so long as the increase in skill is not dramatic at each level. But with the level espers? The stats of each character just shoot up.
  • One of the stats, vitality, is nearly useless. In fact, it sometimes does more harm than good.
  • When you are fighting the five last bosses, any dead characters in your party are replenished from the other characters who are sitting around... whenever you progress to the next boss. However, if your party is wiped out, you can't pull up the next 4. This is really really annoying and makes no sense.
You can buy the soundtrack for this game at your local anime warehouse for much more than you'd think was a reasonable price. I was rather amazed that a friend of mine shelled out the bucks for it, but it occurred to me later that after playing the game for 30, 40, or 50+ hours, the songs (which are short, and loop constantly in the background, and are pretty damn good little ditties considering the SNES limitations) become powerful agents of nostalgia, and have much more personal meaning than the rest of the generic nonsense most of us listen to. Probably the only reason I didn't buy the soundtrack is that through the magic of AudioCatalyst, I was able to gank the songs from his discs in under 20 minutes.

All the songs were written by Nobuo Uematsu, and they're listed below for the benefit of those who can only find a version with Japanese scribbled all over it. I changed the names of some of the songs to match the names of characters and places in the American version of the game ("FF3"). In parentheses are explanations of where and when the songs with less descriptive titles are heard in the game.

Final Fantasy 6 Original Soundtrack

Disc 1

  1. Opening Theme
  2. Colliery Narshe
  3. Awakening
  4. Locke
  5. Battle Theme
  6. Fanfare
  7. Edgar & Sabin
  8. Kefka
  9. Mt. Kolts
  10. Returners
  11. Shadow
  12. Troops March On
  13. Cyan
  14. The Unforgiven
  15. Phantom Forest
  16. Phantom Train
  17. The Veldt
  18. Gau
  19. Serpent Trench
  20. Kids Run Through The City Corner
  21. Under Martial Law
  22. Celes
  23. Save Them!
  24. The Decisive Battle
  25. Metamorphosis
Disc 2
  1. Terra
  2. Coin Song
  3. Techno de Chocobo
  4. Forever Rachel
  5. Slam Shuffle
  6. Spinach Rag
  7. Overture
  8. (Opera)
  9. Ari Di Mezzo Carattere
  10. (Opera)
  11. The Wedding Waltz
  12. (Opera)
  13. Grand Finale?
  14. (Opera - Battle with Ultros)
  15. Setzer
  16. Johnny C Bad
  17. The Empire Ghastra
  18. Devil's Lab
  19. Blackjack
  20. ??
  21. Mog
  22. Strago
  23. Relm
  24. Another World of Beasts (Esper Cave)
Disc 3
  1. New Continent
  2. Catastrophe
  3. The Fierce Battle (Atma Weapon)
  4. Rest in Peace
  5. Dark World
  6. The Day After
  7. Searching for Friends
  8. Gogo
  9. Epitaph
  10. The Magic House (Owzer's Mansion)
  11. Umaro
  12. Fanatics
  13. Kefka's Domain
  14. Dancing Mad
  15. Ending Theme
  16. The Prelude

If you were to ask a long-time, hardcore Final Fantasy fan which game of the series was his or her favourite, chances are good that he or she would would suddenly break into his or her version of Aria Di Mezzo Carattere, a famous opera song from Final Fantasy VI.

Well, probably not. But if they could, I bet they would. A 22-minute version of this song appears on Orchestral Game Concert 5, recorded live, in front of a large audience, with a full orchestra and singing, in Italian! From this fact alone, you can probably determine the success of this game, and the importance and seriousness that some people attach to it. It represents the pinnacle of the series in terms of story, music, game play, fandom, and fun. When this came out, there were no old-school hardcores complaining about the series' changing paradigms, like there are with every release now-a-days. Why? Because it's a fucking good game, everything that we'd been asking for.

In my opinion, Squaresoft made the right choice when they chose to only bring over Final Fantasy I, Final Fantasy IV, and this game, VI. Up to this point, they had only given us their best. Final Fantasy VII, though it had a much wider playing-base, was to me a less successful game. Things of course have only gotten worse since then. And so, this is why we revere this game so much: it was our last taste of true Final Fantasy ambrosia, which I doubt we'll ever get again.
Well, I just said "Final Fantasy ambrosia". Because of this fact, I have been officially graduated into full, Squaresoft fanboy status, so take this writeup with a grain of salt (or sugar!).

The coolest part of the game occurs during the five minutes before you are even able to play; the opening is a work of near genius. We are introduced to the darkish setting of the game and catch a glimpse of a few characters (including the final villain), while in the background the very ominous opening theme plays. And then, the trudging walk through the Mode 7 snow field, with the city of Narshe rising up in the background. The beginning credits rise, as if this game were a movie, and then the beautiful Terra's Theme begins to play. Undisputedly, this is Nobuo Uematsu's single best piece. Grand and haunting, especially now while we watch these three unknown figures drudge through the snow.

And then, the game starts.

I won't get into that. It's long and good. You'll enjoy it.

Best music. Best story. Longest playing time. Best ending. Best villain. Largest cast of characters.

Final Fantasy VI was released in the United States in 1994. At that time, it was known to Americans as Final Fantasy III, the result of Squaresoft having only ported Final Fantasies I, IV, and VI to English. Considered to be one of the best games of its generation, it has been subsequently rereleased for the Playstation as part of Final Fantasy Anthology. The game took full advantage of the Super Nintendo’s hardware, using the sound chip to its utmost, presenting the world map in Mode 7 in order to simulate three dimensions, using some interesting graphics effects in battle (enemies’ death sequences are not done with a series of sprites) and featuring the most complex sprites and backgrounds of any game in the Final Fantasy series at that point by quite a long shot.

The game tells the story of a world recovering from an ancient war between those who could wield magic and those who could not. It’s set in essentially the Industrial Revolution, with steam power, armored fighting vehicles, and factories being a relatively new development. An empire controls much of the known world, led by the Emperor Gestahl as well as his advisor, Kefka. Although it is common knowledge that the Empire seeks to expand its holdings and is attacking and capturing outlying towns, it is not common knowledge that there is a secret program led by Kefka to revive magic in order to build an unstoppable army of Magitek-armored soldiers. The eventual party consists of 14 characters, each with their own backgrounds (most highly developed) and personal reasons for hating the Empire:

  • Terra Branford, a magic-wielder long forced by Kefka to wear a handicapping crown so that she will be his slave and work as his supersoldier. Upon being rescued, she must decide her path, as the crown has erased much of her memory. She yearns to discover trust, to find love, and to be forgiven for her murderous past under Kefka.
  • Locke Cole, a rogue with many connections within the Returner resistance movement and elsewhere. Plagued by his inability to save Rachel, the love of his life, he searches the world over for the ancient Phoenix, a magical stone that would be able to raise Rachel from her coma and restore her life.
  • Edgar Roni Figaro, king of Figaro, much beloved by his people, and secretly a member of the Returners. He is a charismatic man, an inventor in his spare time, and a mostly unsuccessful ladies’ man. Kefka hungers after Figaro and its holdings, and does not appreciate Edgar’s lack of respect for the Empire.
  • Sabin Rene Figaro, brother of Edgar, fled years past upon the death of their father. He bet the kingdom on the flip of a coin, and, winning the flip, escaped to the mountains to train under Master Duncan and become a great martial artist. Torn between his love for his brother and his total lack of self-control, he joins you in order to better the world.
  • Shadow, known in a previous life as Clyde Arrowny, was an incredible thief before pulling off the robbery of the century and abandoning his dying partner. Ashamed at his actions, he fled his home and pregnant wife, killing off his emotions and becoming an assassin for hire. Known only for his deadliness, he wanders the world looking for employers.
  • Cyan Garamonde, chief knight and retainer to the King of Doma. After Kefka poisons the river near Doma and kills nearly everybody in the castle (including Cyan’s wife and son), Cyan swears revenge and joins with the party after Sabin joins him in battle in a military base near Doma.
  • Gau, a youth living amongst the wild animals of the Veldt. He was abandoned as a child because his crazed father thought him to be evil. Responding to Cyan and Sabin’s kindness in offering him food, he leaves the Veldt to pursue a life as a member of human society.
  • Celes Chere, former general of the Magitek Army. Endowed with magical powers as a result of specialized surgery, she decides that she cannot abide by the horrific lengths the Empire is willing to go in order to control the world. Rescued by Locke from torture beneath the defeated port town of South Figaro, she must decide whether she can trust anybody as one by one, the leaders of the Empire reveal themselves to be heroes or monsters.
  • Setzer Gabbiani, the Wandering Gambler. Known the world over for his reckless gambling and possession of the only remaining airship, he mourns the love of his life, Daryl, who died trying to explore the world in her airship, the Falcon. He owes allegiance to nobody, but is shocked and horrified by the excesses of the Empire, and agrees to lend his airship to the cause after losing a coin flip.
  • Mog, the last remaining Moogle. An anthrophile and accomplished dancer, Mog is the only Moogle left after the rest were wiped out in the fall of the city of Narshe. He owes the party his life after being rescued as a hostage from a master thief.
  • Strago Magus, a blue mage and lorist. Seeking to help forge a treaty between the Empire and the Espers, the guardians of magic, he watched Kefka and Magitek-armored soldiers destroy part of his hometown of Thamasa and destroy the Espers present for their magic.
  • Relm Arrowny, granddaughter of Strago, tags along with him as her mother died years earlier and her father fled Thamasa before her birth. Her paintings are said to possess a life of their own, and as a resident of Thamasa, is heir to great magical power.
  • (and the two extremely optional characters)

  • Umaro, a sasquatch. He simply joins after Mog tells him to.
  • Gogo, a mimic living within a giant desert worm. He is interested in the party’s tale and joins to see the outcome.

One of the major additions that Final Fantasy VI made to the series was having the sidequest portion of the game be the main determinant in how well your party performed at the end of the game. In previous games, although there would be some focus on sidequests late in the game, you would have most of the powerful items and spell simply by going through the game normally and then levelling up quite a bit at the end. Final Fantasy VI featured these side quests and more:

  • Getting back characters in the second half of the game
    • Edgar - posing as the leader of a gang of thieves
    • Terra - acting as mother to a town of orphaned children
    • Sabin - supporting a burning building so that the child inside can be rescued
    • Cyan - hiding in Mount Zozo and forging letters from a dead soldier to his lover
    • Mog - waiting deep within the caves of Narshe
    • Relm - fighting a demon within a painting
    • Strago - brainwashed by the Cult of Kefka
    • Setzer - preparing to find a new airship in Daryl's Tomb
    • Gau - on the Veldt
    • Shadow - waiting at the Coliseum for somebody to bet a special knife
    • Locke - within the Phoenix Cave searching for its treasure
    • Umaro - hiding out in caves above Narshe
    • Gogo - waiting within the Zone Eater
  • The Coliseum (items can be gambled to win new ones)
  • Sending letters for the wounded soldier in Maranda
  • Transforming the Cursed Shield into the Paladin Shield
  • Finding all of Mog's dances by visiting much of the world
  • Helping Strago to learn all of his blue magic
  • Having Gau learn all of the animals on the Veldt
  • Defeating all of the Dragons
  • Defeating Doom Gaze
  • Exploring the ancient castle beneath the sea
  • Defeating the Hidon
  • Plundering the Fanatics' Tower
  • Finding the good items at the Auction House
  • Discovering Shadow's hidden past
  • Helping Cyan come to peace with his family
  • And a whole mess of others.

The game is enormous, the plot is expansive and well-written, and the battle system (apart from having one flaw, due to Final Fantasies always having one*) is well-designed. Each character has a special ability, ranging from Cyan’s sword techniques to Locke’s Steal to Gau’s ability to imitate the monsters of the Veldt, as well as the ability to learn magic spells and attack normally. There are a startling number of sidequests, taking up as much as twenty to thirty hours of gameplay. The graphics are crisp and detailed for the Super Nintendo, the music is very well-written (including an opera - see the Dream Oath Opera) and was later orchestrated for the beautiful album Grand Finale, and the game is just overall extremely immersive.

To put it simply, Final Fantasy VI is thoroughly a Final Fantasy game. It features everything that one would expect from the series - magic in several colors, thieves, brawlers, Moogles, chocobos, an extremely effeminate villain, airships, a point where the game’s world is essentially replaced with a completely new one, and a carefully orchestrated plot. Yet it still manages to be fresh and involving, rather than being bogged down in the standbys that Final Fantasy helped to create. If you consider yourself at all a serious gamer, then you must play this game.

*The flaw is that a character's Magic Block stat takes no part in the damage-calculation algorithm. Pump it up all you want; it makes no difference.

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